If you’re a writer, you’ve heard this before: why don’t you write xyz?
If you’re not a writer and you’ve said this to someone who is, then be advised, however kindly your query is received, it is a frustrating question..
Why? Because if I could write like Anne Tyler, for instance, I certainly would. I heard Stephen King say something like that years ago at the University of Maine when he gave an evening talk, beer can in hand. If he could write something else, he would, but what comes out of his head is what you get.
In a conversation with her friend, acclaimed writer Robb Forman Dew, Anne Tyler talked about “how and why a writer chooses his or her subject.” Dew asked her, “Can you tell me why, for instance, your first novel didn’t happen to be your version of War and Peace?”
Tyler answered: “It doesn’t seem to me that I am ever completely free to choose my subject. . . . I’m always saying, for instance, ‘My next book is going to be bigger. More eventful. It really will be War and Peace! But set in Baltimore.’ And then that book is done and I think, ‘Uh-oh, it’s the same book as the last one.’ I seem to be constitutionally committed to looking through a microscope rather than a telescope.”
I would love to write little jewels like Anne Tyler’s novels, love to have her insight and compassion with her characters. Or why don’t I write a book of staggering depth like Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. And why aren’t I funny on the page, like Julia Quinn in What Happens in London? And why can’t I flesh out a plot as complicated as one of David Baldacci’s thrillers?
The answer is, that’s not what I’ve got in me to give. My books generally are about women thrust into difficult situations and trying to keep a grip on their values in spite of difficulties. They’re about more than that, of course, but readers find that a writer they’ve become interested in really does have a particular voice and a particular take on the world that shows through in the novels. Cause that’s how that writer experiences the world and how he shares his take on it.
So. That’s why.